CSF Computer Coding Workshops: Overview
It is believed that in the very near future computer coding will be as essential a skill to have for many entry-level positions, in the same way that word processing and spreadsheet facility is today. That is, the knowledge-based workforce of the future will be heavily dependent on computer coding skills. Around the world, developing countries are training more and more of their students in computer programming (coding), and much of that focus begins with html (for Website development) and cell-phone apps. Even at this level, the Caribbean is being left behind in the race. By not sufficiently developing computer programming skills in its population, the Caribbean is unable to take full advantage of its potential to build a modern-day workforce and to diversify its economies.
In order to help the Caribbean catch up with other developed countries, beginning in January 2018, the Caribbean Science Foundation (CSF), Scotiabank, and the U.S. Embassy in Barbados, the Eastern Caribbean, and the OECS partnered to launch a Level I pilot of the CSF Computer Coding Workshops which ran on Saturday mornings in Barbados. The Workshop will be replicated in St. Lucia in 2019. The tentative dates for the St. Lucia Coding Workshop are January 12 to March 30, 2019 on Saturday mornings 9:00 and to noon.
The goals of the CSF Computer Coding Workshops are to: (1) help address the challenge of increasing the low numbers of skilled ICT workers in the Region, (2) stimulate more interest in science and engineering careers, (3) help train the technology workforce of the future (especially retraining of retrenched workers), (4) stimulate more technology-based entrepreneurship by encouraging the formation of more globally competitive ICT companies, (5) help get more students interested in going beyond programming into the field of computer science, and (6) help prepare students for university study in the STEM disciplines.
These goals are consistent with the overall CSF goals of helping to diversify the economies of the Region and thereby raise the standard of living of the people. Thus, CSF projects have a long-term focus on stimulating more technology-based entrepreneurship, and grooming the next generation of Caribbean science and engineering leaders.
Upcoming Workshop Schedule
September 29 – December 15 – Barbados (Application period closed)
January 5 – March 23, 2019 – Barbados (Application period opens November 15 and closes December 15, 2018)
January 12 – March 30, 2019 – St. Lucia (Application period opens November 15 and closes December 15, 2018)
Student application forms for specific countries are available at that country’s coding workshop webpage.
Because of limited resources, total enrollment in the 2019 pilot Workshops will be limited to about 20 participants per session. Applicants must be Caribbean citizens. Persons less than 15 years old on January 1, 2019 are not eligible to apply to the January Coding Workshops. Similarly, persons less than 15 years old on September 1, 2019 are not eligible to apply to the September Coding Workshops. Girls are especially invited to apply. Other targeted applicants are: (1) Caribbean citizens of any age, (2) out-of-school and at-risk youth, and (3) disabled individuals. Secondary school science and mathematics teachers are also urged to apply.
Only candidates who are serious about computer programming and/or computer science should apply, as these workshops are mathematically rigorous and homework will be assigned each week. These are not camps where children come predominantly to have fun, but serious fast-paced workshops. Candidates who are not prepared to do homework and some learning on their own (or in teams) should not apply, as they will probably not be able to keep up with the class. Playing of video games, social media interaction, Website browsing unrelated to the Workshop, and other distracting or disruptive activity while at the Workshop may result in expulsion. Please note that Workshop participants are expected to bring their own computers (that meet our minimum specifications) to the camp, as the CSF is unable to provide computers.
Camp Structure and Curriculum
Level IA covers html only (website creation and development from scratch). Level IB focuses on mobile apps, but intermediate knowledge of html is required. Thus, the first half of the syllabus developed basic coding skills. In the second half, the participants formed teams, and the teams focused on the development of simple Websites and mobile Apps that addressed specific problems of interest to the teams. Each coding workshop concludes with a public showcase by the participants. A preliminary syllabus for the Levels IA and IB Workshops is shown below. Topics in this syllabus are subject to change at any time.
Preliminary Syllabus (levels IA and IB)
Wk1 – Registration
– Opening ceremony
– Principles of web design
– Introduction to HTML & CSS Part 1 (Paragraphs, text, Lists)
– Using Codepen.io
Wk2 – Introduction to HTML & CSS Part 2 (Tables, Forms, Stylesheets, Bootstrap)
– Introduction to Ionic Creator
– Using Ionic Creator (creator.ionic.io)
Wk3 – Showcase Preparation – Simple Ionic App
Wk6 – Introduction to AngularJS Part 1
Wk7 – Introduction to AngularJS Part 2
Wk8 – Showcase Preparation – Simple JS App
Wk9 – Using Cordova and Ionic
– Adding Cordova Plugins Part 1
Wk10 – Adding Cordova Plugins Part 2
– Using APIs Part 1 (Google Maps, Facebook)
Wk11 – Adding Cordova Plugins Part 3
– Using APIs Part 2 (Foursquare, WordPress)
Wk12 – Showcase Preparation and rehearsal
Wk13 – Showcase & Closing Ceremony
Anticipated Benefits of the Coding Workshops
- A raised awareness and increase opportunities for more persons to consider science and engineering as career options
- Students and adults becoming more literate in computer coding and being able to apply these skills to enhance their future academic studies
- Better preparation of our students for university study in the STEM disciplines
- A more appropriately trained future knowledge-based workforce – more graduates with enhanced skill sets and qualifications obtaining entry level positions in the workplace (especially at-risk youth)
- More and better paying jobs for Caribbean people
- Promotion of more technology based entrepreneurship
- More self-employment opportunities for our youth
- Eventually the formation of more globally competitive ICT companies that could bring in more foreign exchange
- Scale up and spreading of coding camps into other Caribbean countries
- Regional mobilization onto a path to catch up with the more developed countries in the ICT areas
- Ignition and nurturing of the inventiveness in our youth so that the next “Google” has a reasonable probability of coming out of the Caribbean
Selection Criteria for Levels IA and IB Students
The CSF Coding Workshop Admissions Committee will be responsible for selecting the participants. Because of budget and space limitations, the Committee will limit the number of participants in each workshop level. Only complete applications that arrive before the application deadline will be considered. Also, the lower age limit and the citizenship requirement will be strictly enforced. Thereafter, applications will be selected taking the following factors into consideration in decreasing order or importance:
- The Admissions Committee’s assessment of the applicant’s interest and passion for STEM based on the submitted materials
- The age of the applicant (qualified older applicants may be given preference over younger applicants who have to option to re-apply in a later year)
- The date the application was received (early applications given preference over later ones)
The participant workshop fee of $200 helps to offset the costs of running the workshops. For participants who are unable to pay in full at the beginning of the workshop, arrangements can be made for weekly or monthly payments. A workshop T-shirt and snacks are included in this fee.
A Future Level II Workshop
Some time in a near future we hope to offer a Level II workshop for intermediate and advanced programmers. The primary coding language for the Level II Camp will be Python, although other modern languages may be adopted as necessary for problem solving and specific applications. Level II will focus on the applications of coding to problem solving in a variety of areas including science, engineering, social science, art, and industries such as tourism and financial services. Examples of Level II projects could include video games, programming Raspberry Pis and micro-controllers for the control of machines (robots, drones, appliances, and the Internet of Things) as well as the processing of big data using machine learning algorithms, and other applications that may be of interest to the teams.
Python is one the fastest growing programming languages, and has been chosen owning to:(1) its simplicity, flexibility, compactness and readability, (2) the strength of its standard library, (3) its widespread adoption today as the entry-level language of choice in the world’s leading science and engineering universities, and (4) to assist the Region in moving away from Pascal at the CSEC examination level. The greatest immediate challenges are finding a competent Python instructor and enough students who would take the class.
For Level II Instructor applicants, facility with Python is expected. Level II Instructors will be expected to have some experience with the application of coding to video games, programming Raspberry Pis and micro-controllers for the control of machines (robots, drones, appliances, and the Internet of Things) as well as to the processing of big data using machine learning algorithms.
To apply for an Instructor position please fill out either the on-line Web-based application at
or the manual application which can be downloaded as a pdf or Word file via the two links below:
The completed forms should be e-mailed back to the CSF headquarters along with the other requested documents. Our needs vary with time, as we add more sections and more Workshop levels, so we can keep your application on file if a position is not immediately available.
Regional Scale Up
The longer-term plan is to scale up the coding workshops and offer them in other Caribbean Countries in subsequent years, beginning in 2019 with St. Lucia.
Key operating partners of the CSF are the Barbados Campus of the University of the West Indies (UWI), and the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC).